Immigration to give ATO data on visa holders

By Daniel Hurst, Federal political reporter:

The Australian Taxation Office will scour the details of 1 million Australian visa holders in the hunt for fraud, tax-law breaches and cases of people flouting work rights.

Previous data-matching programs in 2010 and 2011 found an ”elevated level of risk” of non-compliance and fraud linked to temporary working visas.

[The program would] ensure that locals are not missing out on work opportunities to visitors who do not have the correct work rights. 

Two months ago, Prime Minister Julia Gillard vowed to end alleged rorting of the 457 skilled worker visa program, sparking claims she was exaggerating the scale of the problem.

The Tax Office confirmed the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would provide it with names, addresses and other details of the holders of 27 types of visas, including skilled workers, students, working holiday makers, medical practitioners and diplomatic staff.

The data exchange will include international travel movements by the visa holder, the place the person intended to study, details of immigration agents, and whether the visa has been cancelled.


”These will be electronically matched and analysed with certain sections of ATO data holdings to identify potential fraud, and other non-compliance with lodgment and payment obligations under taxation law,” the ATO said.

A protocol document says the scheme will check business sponsors and visa holders are completing tax returns and business activity statements, meeting obligations and visa conditions.

Wrongdoers will be sent a letter and given 28 days to verify the information before the Tax Office takes ”administrative action”.

It also plans to share information with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship about visa holders not abiding by the conditions of their temporary working visas. Serious breaches of conditions can lead to visa cancellation and removal from Australia.

Individual employers who knowingly hire an illegal worker can be fined up to $13,200 and jailed for up to two years, while companies can be fined up to $66,000 for each illegal worker.

The Tax Office wants to hold the immigration data for three years, despite the Australian Information Commissioner’s data-matching guidelines saying personal information that did not lead to a match should be destroyed after 90 days.

The Tax Office has requested an extension, saying some types of visas spanned several tax years.

Australian Lawyers Alliance director Greg Barns said he wanted guarantees to ensure the information was not ”passed around those agencies for other purposes”.

Immigration Minister Brendan O’Connor’s spokeswoman said the program would ”ensure that locals are not missing out on work opportunities to visitors who do not have the correct work rights”.


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